The General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) focuses on emerging challenges that might affect aviation activities and processes. Most of the targeted problems are associated with new technologies and changes in the world today. Such issues can be administrative, technical, geopolitical, or non-technical in nature. The first security and safety challenges targeted by the GCAA is the presence of consumer drones around airports. This issue has emerged because many companies and individuals are using drones than ever before.
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Airports across the world have been keen to protect their airspaces. Unfortunately, rogue drones have continued to affect operations in different regions or countries. Statistics indicate that the number of cases involving consumer drones near airports has been increased by over 15 per cent every year (Clarke 2016). There are several reasons why this problem has become a priority. To begin with, drones are capable of causing accidents if they collide with planes or get stuck on runways (Clarke 2016). Experts in aviation acknowledge that collisions with drones can be catastrophic.
Secondly, several cases have been reported involving drones. For instance, in April 2015, a drone was reported to have struck an aeroplane before landing at Heathrow Airport, London. In the United States, different authorities report incidences of drones near airports or close to aeroplanes (Wild, Murray & Baxter 2016). Thirdly, drones are capable of causing numerous losses. For instance, a drone brought air traffic in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to a standstill for over 55 minutes (Clarke 2016). The occurrence resulted in losses of over 55 million US dollars.
As drones continue to increase in number, more problems will be reported in different regions and near airports. This means that they will continue to pose security and safety threats while at the same time causing losses (Clarke 2016). These facts or attributes explain why there is a need for CAAs to address the concern. This is in accordance with the current policies that prohibit unauthorized activities near airports that can endanger aircraft, passengers, and facilities.
The GCAA and other CAAs across the globe have been responding to this problem using various strategies or approaches. In April 2018, the DCAA implemented and unveiled Exponent Portal software (Clarke 2016). The purpose of this application is to allow officials across the nation to track the speed, location, and size of every drone near airports. The software is also capable of recording the kind of information being collected by every drone’s camera (Wallace & Loffi 2015). The strategy is also considered or implemented by different CAAs across the world. Airports and departments that have embraced the power of this technology continue to record positive results.
The second initiative is the use of powerful laws and policies. These are considered to regulate the activities undertaken within the aviation industry (Clarke 2016). The ultimate objective has been to ensure that airspaces are protected against any unauthorized activity. The use of real-time tracking software is being used to control and monitor every operation involving flying objectives and drones in controlled airspaces.
The use of the above initiatives to deal with the targeted security predicament has delivered positive results. Towards the future, the GCAA should consider superior technologies and software systems to monitor even the smallest drones (Villasenor 2014). New laws should also be implemented to hold those who fly drones in protected zones or airspaces accountable and prosecute them. Drone ownership and usage should also be controlled using licenses and increased fees. The move will reduce the number of drones recorded near airports.
The illegal operation of laser near airports has been identified as another major safety concern being taken seriously by the GCAA. Although experts in aviation acknowledge that laser is not hazardous, they agree that it can result in distraction. This issue can affect the effectiveness of pilots during critical phases such as emergency manoeuvres, landing, or takeoff.
This safety concern has been prioritized because the operation of the laser in many countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom is on the rise. The GCAA is focusing on this issue since it poses a major threat to aeroplanes. When pilots are exposed to sharp laser light, they can suffer from temporary blindness and affect their efficiency. It can also result in disruption. Such occurrences can result in accidents. Studies have indicated that the number of incidents associated with laser at airports has been increasing by over 100 per cent annually (Ruane, Watnik & Swartzlander 2015). Professionals also indicate that illegal laser users will continue to pose numerous challenges in airports.
This concern has been prioritized by the GCAA and other CAAs because of the safety issues that might arise. With many accidents being reported during critical phases of flight, experts in the field have indicated that illegal laser light might be one of the potential causes. Ruane, Watnik and Swartzlander (2015) indicate that laser incidents near airports have increased over 24 times within the past three years. Illegal laser has also been reported on commercial airlines, police helicopters, and air ambulances. The emergence of modern technologies will result in hazardous laser light (Salamin et al., 2015). This is the case. Such light will become dangerous and bright. Pulsed lasers are also capable of posing greater risks, thereby resulting in crashes, collisions, or accidents during landing or takeoff.
The GCAA and other CAA have been responding to this problem using various measures. The first one is that of police enforcement to monitor individuals who might be using lasers or bright light to disrupt aviation operations (Salamin et al., 2015). Existing laws on outdoor laser use or operation have also been considered to address the problem. Dang et al. (2016) indicate that “smart” goggles are being used to block laser light or reduce its intensity. New laws have been implemented to prosecute those who operate laser near airports or restricted airspaces. Those who are caught are charged for shining laser on aircraft. Unfortunately, most of the laws and initiatives put in place are yet to deliver meaningful results.
The number of illegal laser operators is on the rise (Dang et al., 2016). This problem requires evidence-based solutions in an attempt to reduce the problems associated with bright light in the aviation industry. The first recommendation is to embrace the power of community-based monitoring whereby citizens can report every identified illegal laser user. The second one is improving the level of collaboration to bring together aviation experts, police departments, and technologists to deal with illegal operators. The third approach is promoting new studies and software systems that can reduce the strength of the laser (Salamin et al., 2015). This initiative will ensure that more aircraft and pilots are supported with the new technology or software to prevent accidents. Existing policies should also be implemented efficiently in order to deal with this safety challenge.
Clarke, K 2016, ‘Drone brings Dubai airport to a halt for an hour’, Khaleej Times, Web.
Dang, QK, Chee, Y, Pham, DD & Suh, YS 2016, ‘A virtual blind cane using a line laser-based vision system and an intertial measurement unit’, Sensors, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 95-112.
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Ruane, GJ, Watnik, AT & Swartzlander, GA 2015, ‘Reducing the risk of laser damage in a focal plane array using linear pupil-plane phase elements’, Applied Optics, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 210-218.
Salamin, YI, Li, J, Hatsagortsyan, KZ, Tamburini, M, Di Piazza, A & Keitel, CH 2015, ‘Particle beams in ultrastrong laser fields: direct laser acceleration and radiation reaction effects’, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, vol. 594, no. 1, pp. 1-13.
Villasenor, J 2014, ‘”Drones” and the future of domestic aviation’, Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 102, no. 3, pp. 235-238.
Wallace, RJ & Loffi, JM 2015, ‘Examining unmanned aerial system threats & defenses: A conceptual analysis’, International Journal of Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace, vol. 2, no. 4, pp. 1-33.
Wild, G, Murray, J & Baxter, G 2016, ‘Exploring civil drone accidents and incidents to help prevent potential air disasters’, Aerospace, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 22-32.